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Showing posts from September, 2009

Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft recently released the full version of it's free Security Essentials anti-virus program, available for immediate download to anyone with a genuine Windows XP/Vista/7 system. The tool "guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software" both in real-time as you download/open new files and via scheduled static scans. It can be configured to do one or the other or both depending on your needs.
Initial reviews on both virus detection rate and system resource usage for Security Essentials seem positive. I typically run my Windows 7 system with UAC turned off (don't get me started), Windows Firewall on and no virus scanner. With some safe browsing practices and not running crack.exe programs under any circumstances, I've managed to stay virus free for a long time now.
I've used third-party virus scanners in the past, but my experiences have been pretty bad. Over time, all virus scanners seem to bring the system to a crawl. Older versions of Nort…

Microsoft Word 2003 - Footnote Separator Line

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Today was one of those days I wanted to punch Microsoft Word in the face. Don't get me wrong, most of the time I think it does a pretty good job. The one thing that seems to constantly crop up for me though is issues with outlined numbering. Sometimes it works, sometimes I'm left scratching my head why it either continues the numbering when it shouldn't, or restart numbering, or incorrectly indent, etc.
The issue that came up today was when I inserted a footnote in my first content page:

For some reason, no matter what I did, Word seemed set on placing a big fat 1 at the start of the divider line between the page content and footnote. Seems like it was treating the divider as a Heading 1, although it wasn't continuing the numbering from previous headings. I tried selecting the whole page above and below and clearing all formatting but the 1 remained. I tried clicking, double-clicking, triple-clicking, dragging, cursing, swearing, threatening but nothing worked.
The solut…

Google Chrome Frame

The Google Chromium team have recently released a new tool called Google Chrome Frame (GCF). GCF is an Internet Explorer 6+ plugin/add-on that allows specific web-pages to be rendered and processed using the WebKit HTML parser and the V8 Javascript engine. Or in other words, with this plugin installed, pages with a specific meta tag can load in any IE version and display as they would in Google Chrome!
As anyone who's had to develop even the most non-trivial website will tell you, browser compatibility testing and hacking takes up a very large chunk of time. While recent abstraction libraries (jQuery/YUI/etc) help to alleviate some of these issues, trying to create a site that play's nice in IE6 is still a major pain.
The immediate answer to this is to 'upgrade your browser', but the reality is that a large number of people are still stuck with IE6, either out of ignorance or due to legacy application requirements. GCF helps migrate these people to a modern HTML/JS rende…

Google Maps and Live Traffic Reporting

A relatively new feature to Google Maps that you may or may not have seen yet is Live Traffic Reporting. For a quick example, try visiting this map of Sydney CBD and Parramatta Road. Notice there are 5 buttons at the top-right, one of which is Traffic. By clicking the Traffic button, the map is superimposed with a legend showing the traffic conditions in the area. Green is good, yellow is slow, red and blank means you better turn up the music and get comfortable as you won't be home for a while...
Live traffic is a feature I've been wishing for in GPS systems for a while. It's all well and good for a GPS to plan out the shortest/quickest static path, but it's not very useful when driving through heavy bottlenecks. A GPS with live traffic support that's factored in to the path-finding algorithm could theoretically shave a lot of time off your trip.
The beauty of Google Maps and Live Traffic is the way in which data is collected. Whilst other systems in the past have …

Secure Login and Registration with no SSL

Before I start, I should mention that SSL is the right way to secure your transport layer. If you're looking for an alternative workaround, you should have a very good reason for dismissing SSL. In almost all cases, SSL is the best and most secure way to do this. I should also mention that I'm not a security expert or a cryptographer. While I think the method described below gives an acceptable level of security for non-critical applications, I could be wrong. Use it at your own risk!
Now that the boring stuff is out of the way ( last chance to go back to SSL), here's how to implement a secure login and registration web application using Javascript, PHP, SHA-512, RSA and a few free libraries.
In a Nutshell The method in a nutshell is as follows: 1. Use an asymmetric cipher such as RSA to generate a public/private key pair. 2. For the registration process, use the public key in the client-side to encrypt the password before sending it over the wire. 3. On the server-side, use the…

Painfully slow Windows 7 Install

Here's one for you. Just finished putting together a new system with the following parts:

1 x AMD ATHLON X2 Dual Core 5050e Energy Efficient CPU, 2.6GHz (45W)
1 x Samsung 1TB F2 HD103SI HDD EcoGreen, 32MB Cache, SATA II 3.0Gbps
2 x KINGSTON 2GB 800MHz DDR2 Non-ECC CL6 DIMM
1 x Gigabyte GA-MA785GM-US2H MB-AMD785G/SB710chipset
1 x Thermaltake SD200 with 270WTT FTX PSU- Mirco ATX Case

Connected all the wires, turned it on and started installing Windows 7 RTM x86 from a USB stick. The installer was running very, very slow!

After the initial black screen with the white bar loading down the bottom it would go to the installer background with the mouse cursor visable and movable, but nothing else on screen. It would take 5 to 10 minutes for the Language/Region dialog box to finally appear. After selecting the language and clicking Ok, it again went to the background screen and was showing nothing for a couple of minutes.

I restarted a few times, changed the HDD from AHCI to IDE and back, etc. bu…

iTunes: Apple's Stealth Cash Cow

I'm not much of an Apple fan boy. I don't own a Mac, I don't have an iPhone, and I don't feel like I'm missing out because of it. As a technologist, I see Apple products as over-priced for what they offer. The cost per feature ratio is very high. So why am I talking about iTunes then?
Even though I run Windows 7 on my personal Lenovo X300, I have iTunes installed and opened most of the time. I don't use it to manage my local media library, but rather I use it to stream and listed to online radio. There are many other alternatives to this, including streaming directly from websites in a browser tab with no special plugins installed. I find the iTunes channels are pretty stable though and after trying most other solutions, I seem to have settled for this.
I also have a Windows 7 HTPC running Windows Media Center. This has iTunes installed on it as well. Not so much for the streaming radio, or for media library management, but rather because iTunes has the best look…

Lenovo X300: Windows 7 64bit and Drivers

My Lenovo X300 is currently running Windows 7 RC (7100) x86 (32 bit). I've got 4GB of RAM installed (2x2GB SODIMM 5300 @ 667MHz). Any 32bit version of Windows can only use roughly 3GB at most though. The rest of the 32bit address space gets reserved for other components. This means 1GB is not being utilized at all in my system, even when it's running out of resources.
It's possible to create aram-diskthat takes advantage of the unused RAM, but I can't think of any practical uses of this in my case (too small for a page-file, not much use for anything else).
As soon as I get some spare time I plan to install Windows 7 RTM 64bit, which should make full use of the 4GB RAM.
The next step after that may be to try and upgrade to 6GB or 8GB of RAM. I'm not 100% sure if the X300 supports this at a hardware/BIOS level.ThisLenovo page says it only supports up to 2GB per SODIMM and up to 4GB max, but this type of information is often wrong, either referring to the 32bit OS 4GB l…